Lead fairly

Lead fairly

We sometimes think of fairness and equality as the same thing, and even with the best intentions, we will lead ineffectively, if we get the two confused. 

Equality is about being the same in quality, status, and value while being fair is your unbiased and impartial approach to people. Everyone deserves to be heard and invested in. In order to be truly fair, how you support and invest in others should be different for each person. 

Assess and dial into their individual needs


In order to lead fairly, you’ve got to have a good understanding of your team. You need to know them fairly well on a personal level and have a good grasp of what they excel at and what they need to work on in order to grow in their career. Some companies lean into talent calibrations that access performance and potential in order to highlight a person’s development needs. Great smaller companies often take the same approach but with more of a focus on one-on-ones to determine what the person’s needs are. 

Once you determine your people’s needs, you’ll find just how different they are. That’s ok! In order to lead fairly, you’ll need to invest in those needs which means you’ll approach people differently. For your high performer, you’ll likely give them stretch assignments, push their knowledge and expertise, and provide them a chance to grow their influence. For the low performer, it’s about equipping them to get back on track with expectations and standards. You may need to slow down and lead with more empathy here. Perhaps the lower performance has to do with a personal hardship that they are currently going through and need help to work through it. 

Don’t forget the top (or the middle) for the bottom 


As leaders, we are tasked with fixing problems in order to make our teams successful. It’s on us to see our goals come to life. As part of that charge, we sometimes over-focus on our lowest performers and problem children. What happens here, is that we leave our top performers alone because they are our best and are usually self-directed in their own personal leadership. 

Remember to be fair with your time. Your best people still need to see and hear from you. They want to feel valued in what they do and validated in the work outcomes that they produce. Leaving this group to themselves while you focus solely on your bottom people will lead to this group’s dis-engagement and will cause some of your best people to leave.

Rember your middle people as well! This group makes up the backbone of your larger team or organization. We need people in the middle. I call them the engine of the company because we need them to stay around a long time and they produce most of the work needed to hit our goals.  Be sure to check in with this group as well and make sure they feel valued and included. Just because they may not want to climb a ladder in additional responsibility, doesn’t mean that they should be neglected. 

Make yourself available to all


We know from unconscious bias (EP 284, 285) that we are drawn to people that we have an affinity for both because of shared personal interests and history as well as how they perform on the team. Understand while you may be spending time with everyone on your team, you make not be making yourself available to all of them. 

Build trust with everyone, so that they feel comfortable coming to you with a need. Lean into the power of active listening and let go of any preconceived notions that you may have about the person or the reason behind why they are there. Being fair in availability means that you are giving everyone a chance to be listened to. This may mean that you need to be creative in scheduling if don’t normally see a segment of your team or have a standard open block of time for drop-ins and questions. 

Fairness does not mean the same. In fact, if you treated everyone the same, it wouldn’t be fair to your team. Pull out and invest in those individual needs, make sure you are investing in all of your people, and that you are available to all of your team to connect and grow together. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

The power of vulnerability

The power of vulnerability

The strongest people in life are the ones that are comfortable saying ‘I don’t know.
-Patrick Lencioni

As a young boy growing up in the ’80s and ’90s there were plenty of heroes for kids to latch on to and look up to for leadership. While there were great leaders like Princess Leia, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, or even Optimus Prime, there was a lot of strength exhibited, but not too much vulnerability. 

Today, employees and customers are demanding transparency from organizations and leaders alike. Portraying an exaggerated level of strength and power will not connect in a lasting way. Leaders and companies can longer hide behind policies and procedures without relational consequences from others. 

So how should we leverage vulnerability in a way that feels real and authentic without giving everything away?

What is Vulnerability in leadership?


Brene Brown describes vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” It doesn’t mean that you have to immediately lay all your transgressions, personal failings, and fears out there for all to see. It does mean that you should let others see those moments when appropriate. It’s letting people you see authentically navigate uncertainty. It’s exposing some emotion to let people see that you are real. It’s installing trust and taking a risk by sharing things about yourself and what you are going through. Vulnerability is about being true to yourself and allowing another person to see into your personal journey. 

How vulnerability impacts your life and those around you


Vulnerability is a sought out trait in personal and professional relationships. Here are some ways that it can impact you.

  • It can help lower turnover at work: People desire purpose and connectivity in the work that they do. (PTB 312: 4 ways to find purpose in work) The stronger the emotional tie that the employee has with their work, the less likely it is that they are going to go somewhere else. Leaning into your vulnerability furthers your connection with other employees in a meaningful way. Vulnerability makes it less about you and more about others, giving them a chance to shine and be recognized for their hard work. 

  • It paves the way for authentic relationships: Think about the relationships that you have that are deeper than a “How are you?” Most likely they are meaningful to you because they feel real. They are authentic. Vulnerability paves the way for those long-lasting authentic relationships. It’s really difficult for relationships to care deep meaning if there isn’t some layer of vulnerability being shown from both parties. 

  • It fast-tracks trust: Lots of companies exist with the sole purpose of providing teams and companies bonding experiences to build trust. A healthy level of vulnerability can fast-track trust just as quickly as a high ropes course or trust fall exercise. Being vulnerable with others shows them that there is a safe place to store their trust in you. 

  • It breaks down barriers to innovation and creativity: Both innovation and creativity can be a fickle and challenging thing to manifest in a team environment. You can make distractions and barriers smaller by being vulnerable and authentic with others. When you admit your mistakes and acknowledge that you don’t hold all the answers, it allows others to step in a new and exciting way. Leveraging vulnerability as a strength also helps you acknowledge others’ achievements and take your ego out of the equation. This of course only helps fuel more creativity. 

Tips to be more vulnerable with others


Being vulnerable to others can be difficult. Putting up a proverbial shield around yourself can make you feel protected. In fact, it may have the opposite effect. You may be unknowingly singling yourself out in a bad way from your peers and from the team that you serve. As competition heats up in business and in keeping great talent, it’s important to take small steps in order to be more vulnerable to others. 

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously: Whether you are stepping into a new role, or a new company it can be tempting to try to impress everyone. Drop the veil of perfection and let your guard down a little bit with others. Laugh at yourself. Laugh with others. Have a great time while celebrating with others. 

  • Share your personal journey with others: Hopefully, you have a good sense of the personal areas that you need to work on to grow as a person and leader. If you don’t, ask your team, they certainly know what those areas are!  Even though they know your growth areas, it’s important for you to share those with others and tell them about your path to growth. It show’s your awareness of the topic and your willingness to discuss those with others will create a stronger personal bond. 

  • Admit your mistakes and check the ego: Easy to say and often harder to do, admitting to your mistakes with others is an important part of being vulnerable. It also helps keep your ego in check as well. If you struggle here, start small and keep yourself accountable as you grow to own up to larger mistakes. 

  • Continue to self-educate: A phrase my team uses often is “self-educate” This typically happens when one of us admits that we don’t know the answer yet to a challenge, but we commit to learning more and landing a positive outcome. I use this phrase just as much as everyone else! Acknowledge your knowledge limits and then be proactive in growing and learning. Something new and positive has always come out of the other end of one of these statements for us. 

Great leaders understand the power of vulnerability. That leverage that power, without manipulating it, to grow personal relationships, builds trust and long-term buy-in from their team, and helps themselves stand out from the competition. Be a servant leader that is vulnerable in your daily walk in order to lift others up. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

7th Anniversary show!

7th Anniversary show!

Thank you so much for listening to the show, whether today’s your first show or you have been with us from the beginning. Today, Zack, Neha, and Mike get together and discuss the past year, share some stories, preview some things coming in year 8 and answer listener questions from our mailbox!

4 Myths of leadership

4 Myths of leadership

Leadership is not some mythical art that you are either born with or not. There is no born leader. All great leaders are created through their willingness to continue learning, their behavior towards others, and their ability to think strategically to get the job done. 

Here are some common other leadership myths that you may have heard about or even experienced in your own leadership walk. 

The Position Myth

“I’m only the leader when I have the title.”

The Position Myth is one that new employees can find themselves falling into, but it also applies to people that are settled and content right where they are.

“I’m not a ‘leader’ so this doesn’t apply to me,” or “Nobody listens to me because I’m not the leader.”  One of the common themes throughout our years at Passing the Baton is that you are a leader no matter your title or position. 

You’ll always have at least one person in your life depending on your leadership…… look in the mirror, it’s you!  It’s highly like that you have others as well that look towards your leadership and don’t care about your title. Think of peers, family members, friends, and even your boss and their boss. They may lean on your leadership in different ways, but they are all counting on you. 

Those that fail to understand that leadership is about influence and not a position, typically don’t fare well with a formal leadership role. 

The Contentment Myth

“When I land at my aspirational role, I’ll be happy.”

The Contentment Myth is the horizon that “A” type leaders are always chasing. The idea is that you’ll slow down, and enjoy life once you realize a major career milestone. 

I got caught up in this myth during my own leadership walk. I had a level of leadership that I really wanted to reach with a singular focus. My family moved around quite a bit in the journey to reach that goal. Through hard work and the support of my teams and peers, I made it and became the 2nd youngest person ever to reach that role in a 100-year-old company.  I was finally content in my career. 

Not long after someone asked me what was I going to do next, and my answer of contentment was not good enough for them. 

“You move around every 2-3 years. Wait until you hit that mark, and we’ll see.” 

At 3 years, I was no longer content.  I broke the trap of the myth once I fully turned my contentment toward seeing others become successful in their own career aspirations. 

Slow down and enjoy the journey that you are currently on and let the destination comes when and if it does. You won’t miss special moments that are currently happening in your life, you will grow a larger appreciation for others, and you gain a higher level of satisfaction in your daily life in the process. 

The Freedom Myth

“Once I make it as a leader, I’ll be free to do what I want.” 

It’s easy to look up at the proverbial leadership ladder and think, “Why in the world are we doing this?” and “If I ever, land that job, I’ll finally be free of all this bureaucracy and will be free to make decisions to change this place.”

While it is quite possible to effect change as you step into a new role, you’ll probably lose more freedom than you get; or at a minimum trade-off levels of freedom in different areas of work and life. 

In the reverse pyramid style of servant leadership, the higher you go, to more people that you serve. That means you trade off more personal and professional freedom in order to meet the needs of others. 

Another way we sometimes can fall into the Freedom Myth is because as much as we may think we know about those above us, you never truly know the level of co-dependency, competing priorities, and responsibilities until you step into the role and live it out yourself. 

Often times the grass is not greener on the other side; it’s just a different type of grass. 

The All-or-Nothing Myth

“Why try if I can’t be the top person?”

If you can’t win then what’s the point of playing the game? Leadership is not an all-in or all-out philosophy. The “top” leader shouldn’t be any more important than a leader at any other level.  

Kindred at Home is the largest in-home and hospice care company in the U.S. and they know where their most valuable leaders are; the ones that lead the teams in the field that take direct care of their patients. Ask any executive and they will all say that the branch director is more important than them.  Even though the branch director may not be the top leader in the organization, they have a profound impact on the level of care for their patients at the local level. 

You don’t need to be at the top to make a difference. In keeping with the Kindred at Home example, I’ve seen numerous stories of people having a literally life-changing impact on others without carrying a formal leadership title. 

Make the most out of your influence right where you are. 

Leadership is a choice that you make. No titles, letters after your name or position, will ensure that people will follow you. Make the choice to lead yourself, your family, and your team well no matter your life or career stage. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Actions to Combat Burnout

Actions to Combat Burnout

Burnout can have a profound impact on your personal and professional life. When I begin to feel burnout, it shows in the things I love most. Projects and passions take a lot more effort and I find myself spinning my wheels instead of using my time to be fully effective. Burnout can happen to everyone, no matter your job, industry, age, or lifestyle. 

Last week we talked about the signs of burnout. Now that we know the indicators and causes of burnout, we’ll look at ways to combat it and begin the journey to recovery. 

Acknowledge it


It’s said that the first step in overcoming a problem, is first to admit that you have a problem. That is certainly the case in burnout. If you try to tough it out and lie to yourself that “everything is fine,” you’ll never be able to move to a healthier step. 

Acknowledging that you are facing burnout doesn’t make you a bad leader, an insufficient parent, or a poor student. It says you are human…. just like the rest of us. As a leader, it’s also important to step up and share this vulnerability with others on your team. It will help them support you, models healthy behavior, and is a good indicator for others to check their own level of burnout as well. 

Share that vulnerability with yourself and with others so that you can begin the recovery process. 

Make it a priority


After the acknowledgment, the next step is putting action behind your discovery.  

  • Look at your schedule and prioritize your time based on your recovery goal. What’s currently taking up space that is feeding your burnout? Take it in small steps instead of fully blowing up your week. Find small segments of time so you can invest in yourself, decompress and do something relaxing. 
  • Eat, Sleep and Be Mindful: How are you eating? When I start feeling burnout coming on, I notice that I start eating like garbage; snacking, and grazing all the time. Set a notification on your phone or other reminders to wrap your evening up earlier to get better rest. Finally, use mindfulness apps, websites, or activities that help you focus on breathing and lowering stress. 
  • Step away from the tech: It’s easy to get entangled in our personal technology, especially if you work from home, do hybrid work, or are currently in school.  Step away for tech-free breaks throughout the day or take a tech vacation, either partially by stepping away from some social media apps, games, etc or take a full-on tech vacation where you truly unplug and do something for yourself instead. 

Include others to help with recovery


While over time, you can recover from burnout alone, you can move through the phase much more quickly by including others in your journey and by clearing the way for others to have a clear path to get back on track as well. 

  • Empower and equip others to have hybrid work arrangements. Lean into flexible work and time off. Accommodate fully in and fully-remote workers if possible. 
  • Beef up (and take advantage of)  programs and offerings that encourage people to get out and do something different. Look for volunteering opportunities or other team well-being programs. 
  • Spend more time together that doesn’t have an agenda. Online meetings are very transactional in nature and people need social connections. 
  • Poll the team to discover ideas to refine good work-life rhythm. 
  • Reconnect with close friends and family members that you may have not seen in a while. Do something experiential together.

Prioritize health and happiness for yourself and others that you lead. Doing so will lead to continued joy in their workplace, empowerment to do great things, and a strong sense of purpose. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Identify the Signs of Burnout

Identify the Signs of Burnout

Burnout is real and can get the best of all of us. No leader is immune to burnout in either the professional or personal life. Years of collectively battling a pandemic have only made this important issue more prevalent and harder to combat. We’ve all spent a lot of time trying to navigate a new reality while trying to do the best at our jobs, and for our families and loved ones. 

Before we jump into action to combat burnout, we’ll first need to get a good understanding our ourselves, the signs of burnout, and where it can come from. 

Are you lying to yourself?


“I’m fine.”

You may think that you don’t have a problem, but burnout isn’t a short-game issue. It creeps its way into your whole life and by the time you do identify it, it’s already manifested itself in you. It’s not too late, but there is more work to do to get back to a healthy balance in life. 

Leaders can lie to themselves about their ability to set boundaries in order to manage stress, workload, and self-care. The multi-year pandemic only increased this by causing a false sense of urgency in many leaders’ workstreams. They felt like they had more to prove in a new remote work environment that they found themselves in and there was no longer a physical barrier between their work and home life. While some of those responses are natural for the increased stress levels that the pandemic created, they can’t be sustained in a healthy way. 

I’ve helped leaders that lied to themselves in order to “push through” burnout. They would coach their team on the importance of work-life balance and boundaries but then they would often be found working late into the night and on weekends as well. 

Honestly check yourself on your boundaries. Throw “normal” out of the window for this classification; there is no normal these days. Instead, look at “healthy or not” to your workload. I know a lot of leaders that going at 80% is other people 100%. Pull back in small increments and see what difference it makes in your personal and professional life. It’s highly likely that your work won’t be impacted too much negatively, but your personal-care time will see a big improvement. 

The signs of burnout


These signs are not all-encompassing. Some people experience one or two as they approach burnout, while others experience all of them. The important thing is to know yourself and your body well and to tune into changes that have and continue to occur. 

  • You lack the energy that you used to have – Early on you may feel more tired than normal and in later stages, you are outright physically, mentally, and/or emotionally exhausted. 
  • You start having physical complications – headaches, stomach issues, etc – Maybe it starts itself out as something small like an eye twitch but can increase to heart palpitations, severe pain, and chest pain. Seek your doctor’s help if you feel yourself experiencing any major physical changes. 
  • Your eating habits have changed – You may begin to stop eating as much or you take it the other way and begin to find yourself snacking more than normal. You may lose your appetite altogether and start dropping weight in later stages or you begin to put on weight as you eat to cope. 
  • Your sleep habits have changed – You find yourself moving to either extreme, perhaps you are getting a lot less sleep or you struggle to get out of bed. 
  • You no longer feel satisfaction in your personal and professional victories – This one can start out small. Maybe you aren’t excited to jump into work or you are ready to leave as soon as possible. From there, you may start avoiding additional work of taking on new projects. This can also extend into your personal life when you lose the drive and excitement that you had before. 
  • You’ve become more cynical and pessimistic – Perhaps you’ve started into more negative self-talk (EP XXX). This one can change your personality altogether. You used to be a joyful and happy person, and now you don’t see yourself or act that way. 
  • You are less productive – Here is one that shows in people you think that they can push through burnout. More time spent on work doesn’t make you more productive, it can, in fact, make you less productive. If you find yourself putting in more hours just to get the same things done that used to take you less time, then you may be experiencing a bit of burnout. 

The causes of burnout


Burnout can come from a number of directions and often finds power over you when multiple avenues come together to compound the issue. Here are just a few of the areas to be mindful of for burnout. 

  • Lack of Control
  • Unclear workplace expectations
  • Poor leadership from above
  • Work-life rhythm is off
  • Lack of support at work
  • Lack of support at home

The first step in overcoming burnout is to identify and understand that you have a problem. Next, we’ll give you actionable steps that you can take to combat and overcome burnout in yourself and a way to help your team guard themselves against it too. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH